Detroit Tigers 40-Man Roster Preview: David McKay

Baseball is almost back, and here at Motor City Bengals, we couldn’t be more excited. As always, we’re endeavoring to provide our readers with the best Detroit Tigers content possible. We continue our 40-man roster preview as we look at reliever David McKay.

Right-handed reliever David McKay was picked off waivers from Seattle in August last year. The Tigers did have not anything ready in the farm system on the reliever end so took a chance on McKay. McKay features two pitches, a sinker, but he has stated in an article in the Detroit News, he throws a four-seam fastball. and a curveball. We will breakdown his pitches shortly but McKay’s journey to the majors is an interesting one. Originally drafted by the Kansas City Royals in 2016 in the 14th round out of Florida Atlantic University, he was traded to Seattle along with three other minor league pitchers to Seattle for cash considerations, which is something you don’t hear very often and was traded for organizational depth.  His numbers in Kansas City were not promising but when he got to Seattle, something clicked after he went from a starter to a reliever.

In 2018 after spending a short time with Modesto, the Mariners High-A affiliate, he quickly moved up to Double-A Arkansas where he spotted an ERA of 2.49 and spotted 71 strikeouts in 50.2 innings pitched with an impressive 12.61 SO per 9.  He earned a spot in the Arizona Fall League all-star showcase.  Baseball America discussed the key to his improvement:

“The key to his improvement was dropping his arm angle to a more comfortable three-quarters slot, allowing him to control the strike zone better.”

Spin the black circle

I was on hand last year with Chris Brown of the during his debut with the Toledo Mud Hens. He inherited a runner and unleashed his impressive curveball a few times.  After just two appearances, he was called up to Detroit.

In his TMLR Toolshed Series, Chris has him with one of the best breaking balls in the system. Here’s a stat Chris found through Baseball Savant on his curveball.

” It averaged 3,054 RPM, which ranked fifth in the majors (among 148 pitchers who threw at least 150 curves), his 18.3 inches of horizontal movement also ranked fifth, and MLB batters hit just .154 against the pitch”.

Here’s his curveball in slow motion:


He would finish the season in Detroit, fanning 29 in 19.1 innings pitched while spotting a K per 9 of 13.5.

Role heading in 2020

McKay has walk issues, walking a total of 17 in 26.1 innings pitched between Detroit and Seattle last year.  Batters were hitting just .206 against him in 2019 so for the Tigers, the role I could see him is middle relief or if he can get the walks down, a setup guy for when Farmer needs the night off. To me, he has closer potential. If he can get the control issues down and with his fastball/sinker averaging 93.8 MPH then dropping in a curve of 76-78 MPH, he could make a living off two pitches. It worked for Fernando Rodney, I don’t see why not it could not work for McKay.


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